- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2007

There’s good news for Maryland anglers chasing after the mighty black drum. The big bottom feeders have been caught — off and on — from the Chesapeake Bay’s James Island up to Stone Rock and the Sharps Island Light.

However, this is not like fishing for bluegills in a farm pond. An angler needs stout gear, a carton filled with soft or peeler crabs, 7/0 and 8/0 hooks, 6- to 8-ounce sinkers and a willingness to drift around for hours until striking it rich with a little pod of drumfish in 25 to 30 feet of water.

Once a drum is hooked and, better yet, put into the boat, an angler has the stuff memorable meals are made of. Few fish taste better than “steaks” or “chops” cut from a thick drum fillet, battered and fried in a hot skillet.

It’s clear the Chesapeake is the best place for now. In addition to drumfish possibilities, the rockfish are plentiful and widely scattered. It begins at the Northern Neck of Virginia up to the Smith Point Light, rounding the corner into the lower Potomac, where scads of 18- to 28-inch-long stripers are picked up by trollers and a few chummers.

In the main body of the bay, local angler Andy Croley serves as a typical example. His e-mail begins, “Bernie Schreiner and I went [out] from the Patuxent Naval Air Station and fished across the bay. Caught 10 rockfish from 18 to 27 inches. Kept our four and had a great time. Used an artificial eel, a No. 19 Tony and a No. 3 Clark spoon and two umbrella rigs with chartreuse sassy Shads. All of our lures caught fish.”

Ken Lamb at the Tackle Box in Lexington Park agrees.

“The rockfish are here,” he says, noting chummers in the lower Potomac are getting smaller stripers but plenty of them. The chummers are setting up from Cornfield Harbor to Point Lookout.

“Croakers are hot up the Potomac and Patuxent rivers,” Lamb says. “The fishing is fabulous for boat renters at Quade’s Store in Bushwood [on the St. Mary’s County side of the Wicomico River]. Limits of croakers are possible for savvy fishermen in the open water during the day.”

Meanwhile, night fishermen are doing well off the public pier at Quade’s and also up the river and from the Point Lookout and Solomons Island piers. The byword is “night.” It’s better after sundown than during bright sunlight.

Trollers in the upper bay from the Chester River down to the Bay Bridge and below connect on scattered, small rockfish, but small boaters also have noted the presence of white perch around Sandy Point State Park, with croakers beginning to show up in the mouth of the Choptank River.

Bass are biting — The tidal Potomac’s largemouth bass are on a rampage. Whacky-rigged plastic worms, shallow crankbaits, spinnerbaits and topwater poppers are scoring all around the river. Typical hotbeds are the broad water-logged milfoil beds from the Chicamuxen to the Mattawoman and on toward the Piscataway creeks but also from Virginia’s Potomac and Aquia creeks up to the Occoquan Bay and Occoquan River.

At the Occoquan Reservoir’s Fountainhead Park, ranger Smokey Davis recommends to fish long, deep points and deep main lake blowdowns for bass. Texas-rigged plastics are best, but crankbaits also score. Catfish and crappie bites have improved, and the bluegill fishing can be great.

Virginia lakes are turned on — At Lake Anna, west of Fredericksburg, the early and late hours are ideal for finding a land-locked striper or two with bass and crappies possible all day around blowdowns, brush piles and lake or creek points.

Lake Gaston and Kerr Lake in the south-central parts of the state have been fine. Stripers in the lakes have slammed Chug Bug topwater lures in the same areas the largemouth bass are feeding. One of the hot spots for bass and rockfish at Lake Gaston has been around the Poplar Creek Bridge.

Try a little bug poppin’ — If you have never done it, now is the time to fish tidal creek gravel bars and little coves as well as lake and pond shore shallows where the bluegills are spawning. A light fly-rod and reel loaded with fly-line from No. 3 to No. 5 and a thin 4-pound leader tied to a size 8 or 10 popping bug, black gnat or spider will see many strikes whenever the tiny feathery lures alight over a series of sunfish beds. Few things are more rewarding, nor easier to accomplish.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday. The standard format fishing report with more detailed listings will resume next Thursday; computer gremlins prevented it this week. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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